An Englishman in New York

I have had my brushes with fame – not my own, but occasionally the odd bit of rock royalty, sport icon, or toothy award winner will show up at my practice door, or more often require that I show up at their hotel to work on them.  The ‘outcall’ has definite problems associated with it – you go into the other person’s environment which they control and one was often made to wait.  The actual people, once you get there, are usually nice enough, but their situation is often fraught, and the people surrounding these lights are often ghostly shadows, banshees who suck the energy out of the star (one thinks of Michael Jackson, but when I was working in Hollywood I saw it many times in different forms).  After a while you begin (I began) to resent it, no matter how many bills they peel off a wad, and I declined to make any more of these hotel  or house calls for the rich and notorious.

But last night, as a favour to a friend, I did.  Near the park on the Upper East Side, I entered a world of understated elegance, but not removed: only on the second and third floor, the noise of the street penetrated – “I kind of like it.”  No waiting, no pretense, a session on a table set up in the warm library, a glass of wine, and out – but this gentle man and his wife have achieved the difficult: staying ordinary and accessible to life in an extraordinary world of money and connection.  Kids help – the great leveler, though the power of money and fame can insidiously unhinge even the most grounded person.  Their youngest, in his early teens, is rebelling by being a right-wing nutter to his ‘hippie’ parents – a common enough scenario these days.  In my own case, some of it survived – my daughter is definitely more conservative than I, but not nearly conservative as she was at 15.

When catapulted to fame, riches, and the ability to do whatever one wants (almost a form of disease, viewed socially), staying ordinary and responsive to life is indeed a great achievement.  This man has worked at it with smarts and determination, figuring out ways of traveling around London and New York without being recognized, staying out of the tabloid chipper for the most part, and having the grace to let folks like me in, still able to get the juice from what I had to offer without being either lordly or obsequious.

So at the risk of being revealing, I want to tell just one story: This man had the opportunity to introduce indigenous Amazonian medicine men and chiefs to some notables, including the (Polish) pope.  The chief gave the pope a beautiful parrot headdress used in deep healing ceremonies, filled with color and power, the pope gave the shaman some plastic rosary beads and a papal blessing. As they left, the shaman looked back at the Vatican: “There is no spirit here,” he intoned.

In the end, the music makes a difference, and just across the street from the shitting dogs and yelling crazies on the street, just a few blocks from where John Lennon was shot, lives a man whose influence through his music has been varied, beneficial and widespread.  Few get so lucky and so blessed as to be able to shine so brightly on so many people.  But even fewer get to do so without being burned to a husk in the process.  I touched his sacred body – it is full and alive and human and, well, ordinary.  That’s extraordinary.

3 Responses to “An Englishman in New York”

  1. mo Says:

    a story worth telling and well told.

  2. jellobiafra Says:

    “Be yourself;no matter what they say.”

  3. mistralmyers Says:

    You think I’m conservative?!?! The bi-sexual/feminist/atheist/pro-choice/pro-gun control/pro-corporate regulation/pro-union/economic socialist/liberal blog pundit and general progressive mouthpiece. Really.

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